Cancer care has experienced a major change over the past decade. Medical research has led to new treatments that are proving to be more optimal with fewer side effects. Patients are living longer, and the number of Americans surviving cancer is higher than it has ever been before — 15 million and counting.

...there is an unrealized potential to improve the lives of patients with and at risk for cancer.

My own research and practice allows me to witness dramatic changes that are possible because of our deeper understanding of tumor biology. When I started in oncology 35 years ago, almost all patients with lung cancer were treated in the same way. One of the greatest challenges in cancer care at that time was that for many patients, treatments were not effective. Cancer treatment was also associated with unpleasant side effects like infections, nausea, and vomiting.

Today, I’m thrilled to say that the outlook is very different because doctors can match treatments to a tumor’s specific genetic changes. The concept is known as precision medicine, and cancer doctors, patients, and families are enthusiastic about its promise for the future.

Personalized treatment

Precision medicine is allowing us to deliver better care, faster than previously possible, and with greater accuracy in certain patients. It’s transforming cancer care for our patients who are not only living longer but also better.

Currently, only patients with certain types of cancers can benefit from precision medicine approaches. However, at ASCO, our nation’s cancer doctors are conducting research everyday that will help us better understand cancer and allow more patients to benefit from precision medicine methods. I am optimistic that we will speed the delivery of these most promising treatments to more patients.

Working together

Precision medicine is not only about cutting-edge cancer treatments. It is also about providing deeply personalized care for each patient. It’s about providing the highest quality care to all our patients with cancer, it should be done in a personal manner, and that it reflects individual patients’ goals and aims. We believe this is one of several next steps for precision medicine.

One thing is for certain: we’ve just scratched the surface with precision medicine — and there is an unrealized potential to improve the lives of patients with and at risk for cancer.